Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Episode 546 (10-12-20): Sources for Answering “How Much Did It Rain?” and Other Water Quantity Questions

 Click to listen to episode (5:12)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-9-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 12, 2020.

MUSIC – ~ 21 sec – “I’m sitting alone, on the banks of New River; sitting alone, while the water rolls by.” 

That’s part of “Banks of New River,” by Whitetop Mountain Band from Grayson County, Va., on the 2008 album, “Bull Plus 10%.”  While the riverside in that song is the setting for a broken-hearted lover’s lament, a river is also a great setting for thinking about water-related conditions.  How might the person in the song characterize the water quantity conditions of her river?  Have a listen for about 15 seconds to some thunderstorm and river flow sounds and see if you can guess four kinds of information she’d want to know.

SOUNDS - ~14 sec 

If you guessed any of the following, you’re right: precipitation; streamflow, including flooding status; groundwater; and drought conditions.  One need not be on a river bank to find lots of information about these: many organizations and tools are accessible online and in mobile apps to provide data on water resource quantity.  This Water Radio episode introduces some key providers of such information; Web-site links to the providers are in the online episode notes.

Precipitation data are available from the National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.  In Virginia, data are provided by Forecast Offices in Blacksburg, Sterling, and Wakefield, as well as the Morristown, Tennessee, office serving part of southwestern Virginia.  NOAA also coordinates six regional climate centers that provide precipitation data; Virginia is in the Southeast Region.  Outside of NOAA, volunteers in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network provide precipitation observations.  And NASA operates the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission using satellites to measure precipitation worldwide.     

A primary source for data on stream flow and groundwater is the National Water Information System from the U.S. Geological Survey.  Users of the System’s online site can search by state for current and historical surface water and groundwater information.

A nationwide map of flooding status is provided online by the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, part of the Weather Service.  The frequently updated map shows river gage locations color-coded for current and predicted flood levels. 

Finally, a widely used source for drought information is the U.S. National Drought Monitor, produced by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  The Monitor’s maps show the percentage of each state falling within different levels of drought.  Additionally, in Virginia, the Department of Environmental Quality coordinates drought monitoring and response.

Much of the data gathered by these organizations are recorded remotely by instruments.  But mobile devices and other technology are increasing the onsite data-gathering role of volunteer citizen observers, including those on the banks of many rivers—without, we hope, a broken heart.

Thanks to Whitetop Mountain Band for permission to use “Banks of New River,” and we close with another music selection appropriate for up-close water observation; here’s about 20 seconds of “Mountain Stream” by Bob Gramann with Laura Lengnick.

MUSIC – ~ 18 sec – “To rise before the mist is clear, to chase the rainfall down the hillside.”


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Banks of New River,” by Whitetop Mountain Band, is from the 2008 album, “Bull Plus 10%,” copyright by Whitetop Mountain Band and Arhoolie Records, used with permission.  More information about Whitetop Mountain Band is available online at http://whitetopmountainband.tripod.com/index.html.  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 334, 9-19-16.

“Mountain Stream,” from the 2001 album “See Further in the Darkness,” is copyright by Bob Gramann, used with permission.  Laura Lengnick accompanied on fiddle.  This selection was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 397, 12-4-17.

The sounds heard in this episode were recorded by Virginia Water Radio as follows:
Thunderstorm in Blacksburg, Va., April 20, 2015, approximately 9 p.m.;

New River at McCoy Falls in Montgomery County, Va., August 4, 2012.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.


Map of real-time streamflow in Virginia compared to historical values.  Map accessed from the U.S. Geological Survey, online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/rt, 10/12/20 at 4 p.m. EDT.


River-flooding forecast map from the National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center as of 10/12/20 at about 3:45 p.m. EDT.  Map accessed online at https://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php#.

Virginia drought conditions map as of October 11, 2020.  Map from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, accessed online at https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/Drought/CurrentDroughtConditionsMap.aspx.



Used for Audio

For Drought 

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, “U.S. Drought Monitor,” online at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Drought Monitoring and Response in Virginia,” online at https://www.deq.virginia.gov/programs/water/watersupplywaterquantity/drought.aspx.  This site provides access to reports from the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies.

For Groundwater 

U.S. Geological Survey, “National Water Information System,” online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis.  The “Water Data for Virginia” site is https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/nwis; the groundwater data link is https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/gw.

For Precipitation 

Brian Bell, “Mobile phone app delivers precision rainfall information to public,” Phys.org News, January 9, 2017, online at https://phys.org/news/2017-01-mobile-app-precision-rainfall.html.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), online at https://www.cocorahs.org/. 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Global Precipitation Measurement,” online at https://gpm.nasa.gov/.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Centers for Environmental Information, “Regional Climate Centers,” online at https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/customer-support/partnerships/regional-climate-centers.  Virginia is served by the Southeast Regional Climate Center, online at https://sercc.com/.  The High Plains Center produces maps of precipitation for each region and state; online at https://hprcc.unl.edu/maps.php?map=ACISClimateMaps. 

NOAA/National Weather Service, climate pages of the following Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va., online at

Morristown, Tenn., online at

Sterling, Va. (Baltimore-Washington), online at
Wakefield, Va. online at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq. 

For Streamflow or Flooding

Jennifer Allen, “The Five Best Flood Apps of 2020,” Lifewire, May 15, 2020, online at https://www.lifewire.com/best-flood-apps-4771113. 

Stephanie Kampf, et al., “Testing the Waters: Mobile Apps for Crowdsourced Streamflow Data,” Eos (American Geophysical Union), April 12, 2018, online at https://eos.org/science-updates/testing-the-waters-mobile-apps-for-crowdsourced-streamflow-data.  This article describes the CrowdWater project, online at https://crowdwater.ch/en/welcome-to-crowdwater/; and the StreamTracker project, online at https://www.streamtracker.org/. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Weather Service/Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, “National Observations,” online at https://water.weather.gov/ahps/.  At the “River Observations” and “River Forecast” links, one can find maps color-coded to show river levels relative to flood stage for the continental United States.  One can select Virginia or any other state of interest.

U.S. Geological Survey, “National Water Information System,” online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis.  The “Water Data for Virginia” site is https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/nwis; the surface water data link is https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/sw.

For More Information about the Quantity Status of Virginia Water Resources 

National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center, “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook,” online at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdo_summary.php.

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “Virginia Water Central News Grouper” monthly posts on the previous month’s precipitation, streamflow, and other water-status measurements are online https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Water+Status.  These monthly posts use many of the sources noted in this Virginia Water Radio episode. 


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Weather/Climate/Natural Disasters” subject categories for several previous episodes about floods or precipitation.  For episodes about groundwater, please see the “Groundwater” subject category.  For episodes about specific surface water bodies, please see the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject category.

The science of streamflow measurement is the subject of Episode 324, 7-11-16. 

Citizen data-collection on tides is the subject of Episode 441, 10-8-18.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2013 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs 

Grades K-6 Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic Theme
1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 – Gathering and analyzing data.

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Interrelationships in Earth/Space Systems Theme
2.6 – identification of common storms and other weather phenomena.

4.6 – weather conditions, phenomena, and measurements.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Earth Science Course
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia, with reference to the hydrologic cycle.

ES.11 – origin, evolution, and dynamics of the atmosphere, including human influences on climate.

ES.12 – weather and climate.

Physics Course
PH.2 – analyzing and interpreting data.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – natural, human, and capital resources.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.

CE.7 – government at the state level.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.

GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels. 

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.

Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.

Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.

Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.

Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.

Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.

Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.

Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.

Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.